November 18, 2010
The first college basketball game not held on land appears to be closer to reality.
Asked about the long-rumored idea of Michigan State playing a game on the deck of a docked aircraft carrier, athletic director Mark Hollis told the Lansing State Journal Thursday morning that "an announcement is forthcoming." Hollis confirmed earlier this year that he'd like to face North Carolina and stage the game on Nov. 11, 2011, which is Veteran's Day.
"From our perspective, it would be something where Americans could reach out to those who protect our borders and create a national celebration around it," Hollis told the Associated Press earlier this month. "The school we've been talking to the most is Carolina, because you could tie Magic (Johnson) and Michael Jordan into the game."
If the idea of honoring our troops with a game on an aircraft carrier seems a bit gimmicky, it's also the rare concept capable of putting college hoops in the national spotlight prior to March. Like the NHL's annual outdoor Winter Classic, the Illinois-Northwestern football game at Wrigley Field or Michigan State's hoops matchup with Kentucky at Ford Field, the unique setting would guarantee plenty of additional publicity for the programs involved.
The concept for the game is the brainchild of Hollis, who has some experience with Michigan State teams playing in unique venues. In addition to basketball games at Ford Field against Kentucky and North Carolina in 2003 and 2008, the Spartans will play rival Michigan in an outdoor hockey game at Michigan Stadium in front of an expected crowd of more than 100,000.
Part of Hollis' plan for the aircraft carrier game is to stage a double-header, with a matchup between two service academies preceding Michigan State-North Carolina. None of the other schools have formally accepted the offer, though. UNC senior associate athletic director Larry Gallo confirmed to the Raleigh News & Observer Wednesday that the game "could very well happen."